Five Things I Learned from Food TV: Day 1 - Salt
Monday, December 11, 2006 | posted by Mike
Before I turned into the gourmand that I am today, I was your "average" consumer when it came to buying food. Yes, I usually stuck to the "brand names" and the quality of what I was buying was perfectly fine. It's just that my shopping didn't have the attention to detail that it has today. I would get the jarred pasta sauces, but they would be the decent-to-good Five Brothers or Barilla brand rather than Ragu or Prego.
In other words, I wasn't paying attention to the little things that make good cooking "good."
So, what was the epiphany? Well, it was certainly after I started watching more food on television. Maybe it was the exhortations not to buy those awful canned olives. Maybe it was the endless lectures on the importance of the "EV" in "EVOO." But I'm thinking it probably was the salt.
Before watching food TV, I'm not certain I even knew what kosher salt was. I had an idea what it meant to be Kosher and I probably figured it had something to do with that, but salt was never something I really thought about. After all, that tube of Morton's Iodized had always served me well, right?
But here was this unfamiliar kind of salt, which all of the TV chefs were using. It had larger grains and they said it tasted different (Didn't it taste like salt?!?!) and that's not even getting into the fancy chefs who reached for the sea salt. So, something had to be up.
I went out and got the kosher salt and everything just started to taste...better. The change was subtle but undeniable. But the difference wasn't really made apparent to me until I tried an experiment on Mrs. TVFF.com, who was as skeptical as I had been. Give it a try.
Lay out three small piles of salt: some sea salt, some kosher salt and some iodized table salt.
Until you taste them side by side, it can be hard to tell the difference. But this is true of all foods...ask an expert in wine or cheese. You need to taste the good and the bad in order to appreciate the difference. And, once you can appreciate the difference, this is when you come to appreciate the importance of good, quality ingredients.
- Taste the sea salt. Nice, fresh and clean. "Salty" but not "salty." Now take a sip of water.
- Taste the kosher salt. Not as clean as the sea salt, but a nice flavor. It gives you what you want without anything else. Take another sip of water.
- Taste the table salt. Ick. It tastes like metal, doesn't it?
Salt might seem to be a small thing, but it goes into almost every dish you make. If you are going to make a commitment to be a good cook, you have to start at the bottom of the dish and work you way up. Although salt is the most basic of ingredients, it has become emblematic of the attention that I now pay to ingredient quality.
And I learned it by watching food TV.